Bradach Walsh, co-owner of Rockaway Beach Surf Club
Hola! Hope things are well wherever you are in the world. I'm happy to report that it feels like summer here in Vangroovy finally! The weather has been rather spring-like so am very happy to feel the warmth of the sun today (and might just go for a skim)!
After my return from the wild ride to Edmonton, it wasn't long before I was on a plane to NYC! I hadn't been there since 2010 and it is one of my most FAVOURITE places to go in the whooooole world.
NYC on a rainy eve.
As soon as I landed and got onto the NJ Transit, it all started coming back to me. The history, the diversity, the character, the grit, the passion, the stories...there's just so much to love! But then, any place that isn't home is a refreshing experience for me. Energy gets stagnant if you're in the same place too much, i.e: my jewelry bench.
I checked into my hotel in Brooklyn and the next day, Cole Louison, a writer for Red Bulletin, fetched me and we headed out to Rockaway Beach in Queens. I had done a photo essay on the surf culture there back in 2009 when I participated in David Alan Harvey's 'At Home' Workshop in Brooklyn. Then the following year I returned to shoot there again to add to the essay. This time would be a follow up to a story that Cole had written in 2013 about the community after Hurricane Sandy hit.
Beach 91st, Rockaway Beach
It was so good to be back out there again. I had forgotten the small town feel it has, the friendly diverse people and beautiful beachfront. There is a warm atmosphere that always welcomes me...a feeling of community with a NY twist.
Cartwright, a Rockaway Beach regular.
Maybe the only thing each of us can see is our own shadow.
- Carl Jung
Skate Park at Beach 91st, Rockaway Beach.
After Cole and I spent a couple days there together - he interviewed, I photographed - I moved over to my friend Cait's to a different area of Brooklyn - Flatbush - and continued to shoot out at Rockaway for a few more days.
To add to the amazingness of NY, staying with Cait and her beau Brandon (also a photog), was THE highlight! We got to catch up on so much and make many more memories and Brandon and I got to geek out together talking photog much of the time! I met Cait in '08 in Chiang Mai on a jungle trek in Thailand. We became travel buddies and went on to Pai and Cambodia after that then met up in NZ several months later. Since then, we've only been able to see each other a few times but the bond created while traveling remains strong!
I got to catch up with Sean on the beach - a local surfer and artist and the subject of many of my photos from both '09 and '10.
Paul Schmidt, local surfer and board shaper in Rockaway Beach.
Matt and I at Rockaway Beach Surf Club. He is fully analog - no Internet. He uses maps when he needs directions - real paper ones - and likes the mystery of life without the Internet.
Not only did I get to meet up with the old friends I had made there but met many new ones. It always astounds me what a powerful tool my camera can be. Of course it has the ability to capture moments but just carrying it around has connected me to so many amazing people. Taking pictures is always enjoyable but I think the reason I love it so much (and miss when I am not doing it) IS because of the bonds that are created. There is a special connection that is made that wouldn't otherwise be there if it weren't for my camera.
Brandon and I! We met in '10 at a street party. He is an artist and surfer who also co-owns Rockaway Beach Surf Club, an open air chill vibin' place where Rockaway locals, surfers and NYers come for Tacoway Beach Tacos, fresh juices, cocktails, art, culture and friends.
Surfer, skater, teacher, competitive swimmer and globetrotter, Mike Reinhardt is another true Rockaway original who started a surf school 5 years ago with co-founder Mike Kololyan. If you want to learn to surf in a particular place, the best people to learn from are always the locals for they know how to navigate the patterns of the waves respective to their native surf break.
In between shooting in Rockaway, I wandered around Manhattan popping into photo galleries for inspiration (Mary Ellen Mark, Doug Dubois, Kenneth Josephson) and took pics on the street. Strolling around by myself with a camera in a place like NY is complete and utter bliss for me. I am pretty sure I had a grin on my face the entire time.
Life imitates nature.
The High Line, Chelsea, NY
Shadow Selfie, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
I left NY after 2 beautiful weeks with a heavy but GRATEFUL heart. I did not want to leave. Every minute I spent there was not taken for granted. Maybe someday I will get to live there, maybe not. Either way, I am amped I got to go back again and know that it's something my soul needs a dose of regularly:)
If you'd like to check out the resulting article about Rockaway Beach, you can see it here: “This is Rockaway”
And if you're in the NY area, there is an event to celebrate the article release tonight!
Red Bull invites you to celebrate the release of the recent “This is Rockaway” editorial piece featured on RedBulletin.com. Please join us for cocktails and tunes at Playland Motel this Thursday, July 21st from 6 – 9pm.
97-20 Rockaway Beach Blvd
Rockaway Beach, NY 11693
About the piece:
Earlier this year, writer Cole Louison (contributing writer for Red Bulletin, GQ, New York Times, New Yorker) spent several days immersing himself in Far Rockaway, Queens. Through a series of conversations with local residents about what makes their community so unique, “This is Rockaway” was brought to life. Featuring a selection of the resulting quotes and photos by Tracey Tomtene, the piece displays just a small snapshot of the personalities and passion which thrive in The Rockaways. Images from the piece, as well as a selection of private alternates will be displayed throughout the space during the event.
In other news, I did the Khatsahlano Street Party a couple weeks ago and introduced my photo leggings and skirts! I was really nervous that they might not sell well but luckily they were my biggest seller. Phewwwwww:)))
So, I will be also be bringing them to the 'Art of Photography Show' at Harmony Arts Festival August 2nd-4th in West Vancouver where l will be displaying wall art and selling photo jewelry too!